The biggest goal is to attract more travelers and have more bookings. There are many different ways to make a booking, directly in your store, through your website, and through Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).
OTA vs Direct Booking, how they work
OTAs (Online Travel Agencies are online marketplaces where consumers can discover and research travel services, such as tours, activities, and cruises, and book them directly with travel suppliers. Some of the benefits of offering your services in OTAs are that they can be a plus to your marketing efforts, provide market insights, process bookings, and manage reviews.
For the customers, OTAs are great because they show a wide variety of activities and tour operators, including descriptions, photos, prices, and reviews.
Seeing the opinions of others who experienced the activities and tours is one of the main reasons travelers enjoy OTAs. Some of the most popular, like TripAdvisor, have more than 325 million users each month, where travelers use the platform to research destinations and check reviews and tips.
Market research showed that in 2022, nearly 70% of respondents prefer to book on OTAs because of simplicity, membership rates, and security. While the people that choose to book direct shared that some of the top reasons are for asking for extras and the best price.
The pandemic has also affected customers' behavior since travelers now desire the highest level of flexibility. Direct booking channels' flexible terms, easy changes, and quick refunds are winning travelers over.
For tour operators
Following TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Trivago, Hotels.com, and Expedia are the most visited pre-purchase sites. So many travelers already research destinations, activities, and accommodations, among others, through OTAs.
A benefit of working with OTAs is that you can expand your reach, manage and sync your availability, tour updates and details, and more with your booking systems. You can sell via the most popular online travel agents and get more bookings.
TrekkSoft, for example, offers a channel manager where you can adjust availability on one dashboard so that your inventory is always updated in real-time, you can control pricing, and more.
Despite having many compensations, depending on the OTA, the commission rates can be quite high. This is why many tour operators choose to work on increasing their direct bookings.
One of the benefits of having a website to offer your tours and activities is that you can deliver the best experience for your ideal customers, providing the relevant information they want the way they want it.
But here is some relevant information for tour operators: almost half (43%) of US travelers do not enjoy the travel booking process. In this percentage, there are boomers, Gen Z, and Millennials - so it's not a problem with technology but more related to usability and time consumed.
Have you ever compared buying a t-shirt online with buying an activity? Of course, booking a trip or an adventure activity requires more details than choosing the color you want and the ideal size. However, the excessive form fields, booking terms and conditions, and extra information might affect the user's experience.
83% of US adults now prefer to book their travel online, but if booking their next trip has become a burden, how can the travel and tourism business improve customer experience?
- Optimize your website. This will help you get found on Google, generate traffic, and increase revenue. Work with an SEO strategy that encompasses market analysis, keyword research and optimized content.Also, promote your website on other platforms, such as social media, blogs, articles, events, etc.
- Work with a Booking Engine. You can sell more tours and connect your front-end and back-end sales tools to keep track of your inventory in real-time to eliminate endless emails and spreadsheets. In addition, offering your payment method increases the confidence of customers.
- Show your reviews. Social proof can persuade customers to try your tours and activities. A positive testimonial can lead to more bookings than a new video. According to Invesp, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. You can share reviews written directly on your website and from TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Google.
Improving your bookings with distribution channels
Here are some distribution channels for increasing direct bookings that your tourism business should be on.
Remember that your website needs to be mobile-friendly. Despite the desktop remaining the preferred channel to complete the purchase, the use of mobile has been increasing. In 2020, 63% of consumers in the travel sector completed a purchase in desktop, the percentage dropped to 59% in 2021.
Get your business listed on Google My Business
Your profile on Google helps you provide details about your company, through photos and videos, you can showcase the tours and activities, and share your location and services for an even larger audience - it helps your business to be found online.
That shared information is shared in Google Maps and Google Search. Travelers can easily find your business's locations; for the meeting points, for example, have your contact information and business hours, and for social proof, Google also has reviews, where new customers can learn more about your business.
Social media has updated the way travelers make decisions; seeing others' travel experiences has encouraged people to discover new destinations and activities.
You probably already have a profile on different social media channels. If you're interested in giving a boost to them, check out our Ultimate Social Media Guide for Tour and Activity Providers.
Online Travel Agents (OTAs)
OTAs don't work only as a backup plan for those building their websites and social media channels; as we mentioned before, OTAs are one of the fastest-growing booking channels and play a crucial role in travel and adventure sales. When choosing the OTAs you want to work with, always consider the leading ones, like TripAdvisor, Expedia, and GetYourGuide, but don't forget about the smaller options, as they could give you access to a more targeted audience that could be more relevant to your business., some examples are Aoliday, Lulu Trip, and others.
Although OTAs have been a helpful distribution channel for many businesses, accepting new tour operators can be demanding. So we recommend that you first do some research, find the OTA that reaches your intended audience, and then consider the possibility of adapting your products to their requirements.
At the end of the day, travel and tourism businesses need to be on top of both OTAs and direct bookings.
To grow your distribution and reach more customers, always try to be where they are, whether online, on an OTA or in-store.
If you want to learn more about how TrekkSoft can help you scale and grow your business, click below.